Mental events as asserted in behaviorism are considered to be unscientific and embrace the use of practical experiment in the collection of data other than the use of mental processes. Behaviorism, as argued by the different scholars of psychology, is an approach that is employed in the study of both animal and human behavior and holds that the conduct can be measured. However, it is paramount to appreciate the fact that the behaviorist denies the use of human mind and hold that behavior is an essential tool that can be utilized in the psychological studies. However, it is important also to note that the negligence of the human mind is a huge weakness in the behavioral studies as it results in the development of huge gaps (Blumenthal, 2010). One of the reasons why the mental events are not appreciated in such studies is because all of the assumptions drawn in the study have to be practically supported by the diverse experiments that are conducted. The purpose of the above study is to appreciate the significant contribution of the traditional American Psychologist, John Watson, and highlight his key theories, strength, and weaknesses among other important issues that he contributed to the field of psychology.
John Watson Biography
John Broadus Watson, a famous American psychologist, was born in 1878, in South Carolina and is renowned for his enormous contribution to the field. Watson had a mixed upbringing as his two parents led a different kind of lives; his mother was a Christian and intended to make his son follow Christianity and restrain from the human behavior while his father was a drunkard who left the family while John was thirteen for other two women. Leaving with his lawless father influenced his behavior significantly as he was often found to be on the wrong side of the law. Moreover, the unsettled relation between his mother and dad negatively affected him as he lost focus from his academic. Some of the mischievous behaviors that evidence lost of motivation in Watson's academic includes his changed behavior in school as he often fought, for example assaulting of another kid and mocking of his teacher. Furthermore, he was found on the wrong side of the law and arrested on two different occasions, an aspect that indicates Watson had lost hope in life. Nonetheless, his focus for academic life was rejuvenated when Watson joined Furman, an institution of higher learning where he was led by a mentor into the field of philosophy (Kreshel, 2010).
John Watson graduated from the University five years later with his masters and pursued further education at Chicago University but with more interest in comparative psychology and animal study. Watson specialized in the above-mentioned field and worked closely with other prominent scholars during his time and earned his Ph. D three years down the line at the age of 25 with his dissertation based on the conduct of white rat and the nature of its nervous system. His previous encounter with his promiscuous father influenced his life significantly as he often had different partners even though married, an aspect that almost cost his job at the university. However, to save his reputation, Watson was forced to transfer to a different university (Johns Hopkins) where he continued his teaching career.
However, at his new institution, he was offered more responsibility and led as a sitting chair of the department while still as a psychology lecturer. At the University, Watson experimented more on the animal behavior as he had the chance to set up his laboratory at the University, an aspect that resulted in his significant contribution to the field of psychology. Watson was able to publish his first article five years later after joining Hopkins with a view that psychology was a study of behavior, and both humans and animals led almost a similar kind of life. One year later, he was able to make another significant contribution to academic life at the university as he published an article on Behavior that was titled as "An Introduction to Comparative Psychology." It is in this article that he explained about how animals can be used to study reflexes and asserted that using the strategy of conditional reflexes gave the best response (Kreshel, 2010). Watson was further involved in the writing of different books and reports on psychology before his election as president the American Psychological Association where he was subjected to more responsibility in the field (Line, 1999).
However, it is worth pointing that in spite of the fact that Watson was involved in different kinds of accomplishment during his life as a psychologist, it is important to appreciate the fact that his was popularly renowned for his experiment on Little Albert. The above operation was assisted by one of Watson's student Rosalie Rayner as the conditioned the child to different conditions to understand his fear of animals and loud music.
However, Watson had a side relation with Rosalie, an aspect that contributed to his divorce with his wife Mary and dismissal from the University of John Hopkins. However, his dismissal did not influence his study on behaviorism as he settled with Rosalie and had two children whom he used to conduct more experiments in his new home in New York. However, his attention was diverted to the advertisement, and he was encouraged to pursue a career in the field despite writing more articles in the area of psychology. Sadly, Watson lost his wife, Rosalie in 1935, an aspect that negatively affected his life as he became an alcoholic and the death of his son in 1954 worsened the situation making him burn all his publications before meeting his death in 1958. However, Watson is renowned for his significant contribution to the field of psychology and repeatedly appreciated as the father of behaviorism. Before his death, Watson was awarded a gold medal by APA for his enormous contribution in psychology among other significant contributions to academic lives of many (Hergenhahn, 1992).
Most Significant Contribution and Empirical Methodologies used by Watson
Watson was not only a professor of psychology but a father in behaviorism, a contribution that he is renowned and was regarded to be one of the most influential psychologists of the century during his time. His contribution to the ground of psychology included his definition of the study of conduct and appreciated the importance of how the environment influences the human being development. One of the things that attracted Watson to his research on behavior is introspection, in that scholars had interests in their fields and the study carried out in consciousness which according to Watson, he was of the idea that it was subjective and unscientific (Powell et al., 2014).
It worth noting that his study was in response to introspection as a show to the world that controlled laboratory studies are the most useful for learning purposes. He asserted that if the researchers were able to manipulate the learner's environment, then they would foster initiate development. Watson, therefore, contributed immensely by introducing behaviorism studies, a field that he is greatly honored to date and the fact that he prepared his successors like Skinner in the study of radical behavior.
Strength and Limitation of Behavioral Theory by Watson
Behaviorism as earlier mentioned was introduced by Watson and later enhanced by Skinner. The two psychologists argue that behavior can be measured, trained and altered. The above theory is documented in Watson's article, "Psychology as the Behaviorist view it" and his contribution is highly appreciated by different scholars and learners over the decades. One of the key strength of the theory is that the results used in making conclusions can be experimentally produced for example the Little Albert experiment. However, the behaviorism theory does not credit the active human agency but relies on tests and the fact that environment has a significant influence on human development and that it can be influenced. The theory is however criticized by the mere fact that the behaviorist cannot adequately explain the procedural decisions amid the difference category of rewards and goals. Furthermore, it is worth noting that not all human behavior is based on conditioning reflex on one single task as explained by Watson (Benjamin et al., 2007). Therefore, human actions are divergent due to varied thinking and are shared by nature (Benjamin et al., 2007).
Watson is credited with the fact that he developed key ideas that are used to date in the field of philosophy, and altered the way people view things. Using the various techniques that were introduced by Watson to his theory, people can manipulate behaviors. His contributions made psychology be a scientific tool that can be applied in solving different challenges of life. Watson is therefore credited with the fact that he made behaviorism theory to be popularly appreciated and understood. The theory has recognized the fact that behavior can be measured or predicted in different circumstances, and it is this vital ability that makes people avoid unnecessary reactions among people.
The behaviorist theory is only based on understanding the behavior of both humans and animals through the study of their emotional answers (reaction) and the triggered effect (stimulus) to indicate when subjected to different environmental conditions. One of the key weaknesses of the above approach is that the study tries to explain all the human actions through visible phenomena as it renders the use of conscious as invalid for such research. However, it is well understood that the behavior of people cannot entirely rely on physical observation without emphasis of the mental activities. The approach is thus limited as it cannot explain the past experiences of a person and therefore, in such incident it is worth noting the significance of the innate abilities of an individual. Although the surrounding plays an essential role in the life of people, it is important to appreciate the fact that it cannot entirely depend on explaining all the behaviors of people. Furthermore, behaviorism theory has a weakness to some extent as it assumes the individualism aspect of people and it makes the general conclusion of persons. Furthermore, the theory fails to explain the creativity aspects of an individual and believes that people's behavior can be manipulated to respond in particular ways, which according to others it is a violation of the human rights (Hall, 2009).
Behaviorism as a concept evolved over the decades and is believed to have started in 1913 when Watson contrasted with the introspection and introduced behaviorism. With his concept, he relied on the fact that learning of the people's mind can be accomplished through the physical observation of their conduct and that this can be realized through conditioned experiments. However, various shortcomings are noted in Watson's work that has been criticized by different scholars over the decades. Watson's experiment on the little Albert was unethical as it triggered more fear into the kid's life, an aspect that probably contributed to his condition and can be considered as abuse because the child was not aware of the Watson's actions. Furthermore, there was no control experiment to justify on the action of the behavior of the kid, and there are numerous questions regarding the validity of the research concerning emotional response (Hall, 2009).
Watson's intention to test of fear towards simple objects was considered to cause physical and mental harm to the kid an action that is considered unethical. Moreover, the kid was never unconditioned meaning that the child was affected by the experiment experience though out his life. It can, therefore, be found that the child was still young and could not have explained his consent to taking part in the experiment an issue that Watson capitalized on. However, despite the criticisms, it is not worth noting that the researcher's behaviorist approach is an essential instrument that is applied to date and helps in explaining why people behave in certain ways.
One of my personal experiences with the behavioral theory is the conditioned nausea when subjected to certain environmental conditions. For example, if exposed to the sight of cooked beans or smell, it causes nausea because of experience of stomach upset. This action can be experienced in the everyday life of a person or a dog, for example, if a dog is once bitten; it is likely to develop fear when conditioned to certain environmental factors. Conditioning as explained in the behavioral theory helps an individual from preventing themselves from any form of harm or early preparation for a particular biological event such as eating or sex. An example in place is the stimulus that is often experienced amid sexual partners can lead one to develop sexual arousal when subjected to certain conditions as a preparation for the sexual activity. Therefore, it is worth noting that conditioning in the behavioral study can be understood as an adaptive mechanism that animals and human being use to prepare themselves in advance for an individual encounter in life.
However, in classical conditioning, the aspect is often used as a form of treatment or in helping people to change behavior such as smoking or substance abuse. For the case of the behavioral therapist, people are exposed to unpleasant effect so as to restrain themselves from certain undesirable effect. It is, therefore, critical to appreciate the fact that classical conditioning cannot only be used for therapeutic interventions but as well as the everyday activities for example in the advertisement. Behavioral psychology can thus be applied in our everyday lives in diverse ways from therapy intervention to adaptive mechanism when subjected to certain conditioning (Malone & García-Penagos, 2014).
Benjamin, L. J., Whitaker, J. L., Ramsey, R. M., & Zeve, D. R. (2007). John B. Watson's Alleged Sex Research: An Appraisal of the Evidence. American Psychologist, 62(2), 131-139.
Blumenthal, A. L. (2010). Mechanical Man: John Broadus Watson and the Beginnings of Behaviorism. American Journal of Psychology, (2), 274.
Digdon, N., Powell, R. A., & Harris, B. (2014). Little Albert’s alleged neurological impairment: Watson, Rayner, and historical revision. History of Psychology, 17(4), 312-324.
Hall, G. (2009). Watson: The thinking man's behaviourist. British Journal of Psychology, 100(1a), 185-187.
Hergenhahn, B. R. (1992). An introduction to the history of psychology. California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
Line, T (1999). Psychology history. Retrieved February 9, 2016, from http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/watson.htm
Kreshel, P. J. (2010). John B. Watson at J. Walter Thompson: The Legitimation of "Science" in Advertising. Journal of Advertising, 19(2), 49-59.
Malone, J. C., & García-Penagos, A. (2014). When a clear strong voice was needed: A retrospective review of Watson's (1924/1930) behaviorism. Journal of The Experimental Analysis Of Behavior, 102(2), 267-287.
Powell, R. A., Digdon, N., Harris, B., & Smithson, C. (2014). Correcting the record on Watson, Rayner, and Little Albert: Albert Barger as 'Psychology’s lost boy'. American Psychologist, 69(6), 600-611.